More 'big buddies' needed for Wakatipu mentoring programme
Queenstown's 'buddy' programme that matches adults with 'little buddies' means Marie Needham and Phil Crosbie have been playing a lot of chess this year.
One afternoon a week they meet up with their buddy Jack after he finishes school.
Sometimes they all take a walk along the river, other times they hang out and play cards or chess - a favourite of Jack's.
They have summer plans for bike rides in the calendar too.
The long-term Queenstown locals have grandchildren far away - Ms Needham recently became a grandmother to a six-week-old baby up in Whangārei, while Mr Crosbie has a grandchild over in Melbourne - so they treasure the interaction with their young mate.
Ms Needham says they "learn a lot" from Jack.
"It helps us be tuned into the children of today...it's so easy to get set in your ways."
Becoming a big buddy was something they had both wanted to do for a while, but it was about carving out the time, and they were able to do that in July.
Wakatipu Buddy Programme co-ordinator Nanette Benington says the buddy commitment involves the adults spending two to three hours a week with a child needing extra support, who has been referred to their organisation from local schools or social service providers.
"Feedback from parents, schools and referrers is that the little buddies have improved social skills and confidence resulting in better outcomes at home and school...Little buddies are also encouraged to find their passions such as art, music, basketball or mountain biking."
At the moment, there's 13 buddy matches in Queenstown, but Ms Benington says they are looking for more big buddies to take on the commitment for a year.
She says the big buddies are encouraged to do low or no-cost activities with their little buddies during their weekly outings, but there are also organised group outings during the year.
For 2023, these activities included a breakfast at the Sudima Hotel, an iFLY experience, a trip up the Skyline Gondola and down the luge, and a Christmas picnic in Arrowtown.
Big buddies who decide to come onboard receive training and support from the buddy programme, which is a venture run under the umbrella of Presbyterian Support Southland.
The next training round will open up in March or April next year.
Ms Bennington says that they are currently looking for individuals and couples to sign up, who would be happy to take on a child from age four to 12.
Keen to volunteer? Get in touch via email at [email protected].
Main image: Marie Needham and Phil Crosbie play a game of Phase10 with their little buddy Jack.